WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden responded for the first time on Sunday to allegations that he made a Nevada politician feel “uneasy” in 2014 when he kissed her on the back of her head, saying that he never believed he acted inappropriately.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said in a statement. “And not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
The statement was the first response to the allegations directly from the former vice president. Previously there have only been statements from Biden’s spokesman.
Lucy Flores, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Nevada, made the allegations against Biden on Friday in an essay for The Cut, an arm of New York magazine, writing that Biden made her feel “uneasy, gross, and confused” in 2014 when, at a campaign rally in Nevada, she said he kissed her on the back of the head.
Flores said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning that Biden’s new statement Sunday morning was “certainly better” than the initial response from Biden’s spokesman Bill Russo.
The initial statement from Russo said, “Neither then, nor in the years since, did (Biden) or the staff with him at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes.”
“But Vice President Biden believes that Ms. Flores has every right to share her own recollection and reflections, and that it is a change for better in our society that she has the opportunity to do so,” the statement read.
Flores said in response to the new statement from Biden himself that she was “glad that he’s willing to listen” and “glad that he is clarifying his intentions.”
But, she added, “Frankly, my point was never about his intentions, and they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior.”
In his statement on Sunday, Biden said, “I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”
“I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own. And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.”
The accusation against Biden comes as he is considering a bid for president in 2020. He is expected to announce his decision as soon as April.
Flores recounted the incident in her appearance on CNN, saying it occurred as she was preparing herself to deliver remarks when Biden approached her from behind.
“Very unexpectedly and out of nowhere, I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head,” Flores said.
She said the moment was “shocking.”
“You don’t expect that kind of intimacy from someone so powerful and someone who you just have no relationship whatsoever to touch you and to feel you and to be so close to you in that way,” Flores said. “So I frankly just didn’t even know how to react. I was just shocked. I felt powerless. I felt like I couldn’t move. I just didn’t even know how to process it.”